T&T Government ministers should use the official means of communication that are available to them if they want to communicate their views to the US Embassy.
Public Affairs Officer at the embassy, Matthew Cassetta, told the Guardian that yesterday in a telephone interview in which he was commenting on media reports that relayed what Sports Minister Anil Roberts had said concerning US visa applications. According to media reports yesterday, Roberts said on Sunday the US Embassy needed to have a clear policy on visas and mentioned the names of two athletes who were denied visas to study in the US. Commenting on this, Cassetta said there were avenues for T&T Government Ministers to voice their concerns to the embassy.
"Any Government Minister would be welcomed to express their views, but this should be done through the official channels, like the diplomatic notes that are exchanged between the embassy and the ministries," he said. He also mentioned the three-day visit of US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Dr Arturo Valenzuela, to Trinidad last week where similar issues were raised at a media conference last week at the Hyatt Hotel. Beatrice Welters, US Ambassador to T&T, also was present at the media conference.
At the news conference, Valenzuela said 70 per cent of the 36,000 visa applications that the embassy received on an annual basis were approved and that the chances of T&T nationals getting visas were better than other Caribbean territories. "The rate of approval to get a visa in T&T is much better than other countries like Guyana or Jamaica. Seventy per cent of locals who apply for visas are successful," Cassetta said. He pointed out that although some locals complain about services at the embassy, both Welters and Valenzuela congratulated consular staff at the embassy for their good work.
He added: "At the media conference the US ambassador and our Assistant Secretary of State both affirmed their confidence in the consular section at our embassy in Trinidad. "Ambassador Welters said she had personally witnessed interviews being carried out and they were all carried out to the letter while Valenzuela was pleased to see the dedicated staff at the consular section and embassy." Cassetta also declined to comment on a Guardian report yesterday which indicated that a 14-year-old T&T national was detained by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency and is presently in its custody.
The Guardian report stated that immigration attorney Randy Depoo said the girl's mother is "severely traumatised" and that the Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Suruj Rambachan, was following the case closely. "The US Embassy usually does not comment on an ongoing legal case so I can't comment on this specific case at this time," Cassetta said.